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Starry-eyed youths ready for the big leap

More than a thousand maths and science learners from high schools in Mahikeng, Potchefstroom and Vanderbijlpark have had a front row seat and experienced – first-hand – the wonders of the universe.

They attended a lecture series presented by extraordinary professor Don Kurtz of the North-West University (NWU).

The high school learners from schools such as Letsatsing and Mmabatho High are but a fraction of those who have benefited over the decades from Prof Kurtz’s passion for astronomy.

In fact, between 2010 and 2020, he gave more than 300 public lectures, reaching live audiences in the tens of thousands, and even larger numbers on television for programmes such as The Sky at Night, Stargazing Live and Big Ideas on TV Ontario, as well as on radio in the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa.

"South Africa has been good to me during my career in astronomy,” says Prof Kurtz. “I will continue to show my appreciation by sparking interest in young South Africans in the wonders of science and the pleasures and satisfaction of having a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – and the benefits to the country from their working in these important jobs."

More about Prof Kurtz

Prof Kurtz joined the NWU’s Mahikeng Campus in 2021 and has an A1 research rating from the South African National Research Foundation.

He recently received the United Kingdom’s Royal Astronomical Society’s (RAS’s) 2022 Service Award for Astronomy.

According to the RAS, the award was in recognition of “a lifetime of passionate dedication to public outreach and service to astronomy”.

Although now retired and living in Port Alfred, Eastern Cape, he visits the campuses of the NWU at least twice annually to give talks and colloquiums and conduct collaborative research.

Listen to a sound clip of Prof Kurtz speaking about school visits.